By Prem Vaidya
“The blood of the martyrs is said to be the seed of liberty.? But as time passes we tend to forget them while enjoying the fruits of liberty that they gave us. Dr Tristao de Braganza Cunha (T.B. Cunha), an Indian patriot, rightly called the Father of Goan Nationalism, was the first Goan to think, ?Goa could not be isolated from the Indian freedom struggle.? He raised his head against the brutal force in Portuguese-India when others bowed.
He was born on April 2, 1891 in the village Chandor in Goa. After completing his school education in Panjim, he went to Pondicherry to French College and completed his B.A. and then went to Paris to study further at the Sorbonne University where he obtained a degree in electrical engineering.
This was the time when Mahatma Gandhi'sCivil Disobedience Movement in India was in full force. The vibrations of Indian freedom struggle reached TB Cunha in France. He became a regular contributor to French papers, The Clarte and L?Humanite, reporting the Indian news. The Jalianwala Bagh tragedy was first made known to the people of France and then to the whole of Europe through TB Cunha'smighty pen. According to K.M. Panikar, Tristao Braganza Cunha was in effect nationalist India'sfirst ambassador in France where he highlighted all the events of the Indian freedom struggle through his pen. TB Cunha, filtered out much of the information in France that was banned and blocked by the British authorities. Returning to Goa in 1926, TB Cunha started his political activities.
Along with five Goan nationalists, he secretly founded the Goa Congress Committee in 1928 for the liberation of Goa, Daman and Diu. To have a proper recognition he rushed to Kolkata where the Indian National Congress session was going on. He met the Congress leaders and succeeded in getting his Goa Congress Committee affiliated with the Indian National Congress on December 30, 1928 under the article III (F) of the Congress Constitution. This was the time when with iron hands from Portugal the dictator Dr Oliveira Salazar was ruling the meager population of 600,000 Goans. The police were all powerful. Though the printing press came in Goa in 1556, which was the first in whole of Asia, there was no freedom of press.
Even the wedding cards could not be printed without the police permission. There was utter absence of political rights and elementary civil liberties. Salazar knew that the formation of a nation comes from the feeling of patriotism and so on every 25th November, people of Goa were reminded that they were conquered people. All school children along with their teachers were made to bow in front of the statue of Afonso de Albuquerque?the first conqueror of this land on November 25, 1510! Speaking at Kolkata session of the Hindu Mahasabha in 1939, Veer Savarkar said: ?Our first and foremost aim in our political activities must always be to guard the unity and integrity of Hindustan intact. Hindustan to us does not only mean the so-called British-India but comprises even those parts, which are under the French and Portuguese possession. Gomantak (Goa) and Pondicherry are as integral parts of our motherland as Maharashtra and Bengal.? The Indian freedom fighter Dr Ram Manohar Lohia, gate-crashed into Portuguese?India on June 18, 1946 and tried to address a first public meeting in the history of Goa at Madgaon (Mathgram). He exhorted Goans to raise the banner of revolt, spoke about the civil liberties for Goans and asked them to join the rest of India to throw foreign rulers from the Indian soil. For the first time the whole of Goa resounded with slogans of ?Jai Hind.?
Among the Goan leaders who had associated with Dr Lohia were brutally assaulted and bayoneted? the mark of which TB Cunha carried with him to the grave. He was kept in dark damp cell at Fort Aguada. Later a case was registered against him. He was the first civilian to be tried by the military tribunal and was court-martialed and sentenced to eight years imprisonment and deported to the Portugal prison of Peniche. After his release from Portugal he came back and landed on the free soil of Independent India on September 4, 1954. He continued his fight for the freedom of Goa. Due to the long imprisonment and suffering, TB Cunha'sbody was not responding like his spirit to the struggle. Yet he kept to a desk job as the editor of Free Goa and carried his fight through his pen till the last day. He died on September 28, 1958. Loknayak Jaiprakash Narayan was one of the pallbearers.
TB Cunha'slast wish??the integration of Portuguese pockets with India??was fulfilled three years after his death. On December 19, 1961, Portuguese Governor-General, Vasselo de Silva, surrendered his forces in Goa, Daman and Due to the India Army.
During 1985? India was celebrating a yearlong centenary of the Indian National Congress and the Government of Goa had celebrated the Silver Jubilee of Goa'sliberation on December 19, 1985. On the initiative of this author, Films Division assigned him a documentary film on Goa'sfreedom struggle entitled ?The soil that was ours?.
While filming, it pained me to see a broken dilapidated and neglected headstone of Tristao Braganza Cunha at the Sewri Cemetery in Mumbai on plot No.9, lane J, grave No. 16. With heavy heart, I placed the wreath and decided to do something. I had arranged the very first show of the documentary film The soil that was ours at Panjim, Goa. Tristao Braganza Cunha, a slab of stone?how can it contain a soul? But it is so… The scene in the documentary had its immediate impact. Shri Pratap Rane while enjoying the documentary whispered, ?Mr Vaidya, what do you think, if I bring Cunha'sremains to Goa and give him a respectful burial? ?Excellent.? After 28 years of the freedom fighter'sdeath, his body was exhumed and brought to Goa.
The writer can be contacted at [email protected])